Geometry

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Geometry (γεωμετρία; geo = earth, metria = measure) is a part of mathematics concerned with questions of size, shape, and relative position of figures and with properties of space. Geometry is one of the oldest sciences. Initially a body of practical knowledge concerning lengths, areas, and volumes, in the third century BC geometry was put into an axiomatic form by Euclid, whose treatment set forth in his [Euclidean geometry]] became a standard for many centuries to follow. The field of astronomy, especially mapping the positions of the stars and planets on the celestial sphere, served as an important source of geometric problems during the next one and a half millennia. A mathematician who works in the field of geometry is called a geometer.

Introduction of coordinates by René Descartes and the concurrent development of algebra marked a new stage for geometry, since geometric figures, such as plane curves, could now be represented analytically, i.e., with functions and equations. This played a key role in the emergence of calculus in the seventeenth century. Furthermore, the theory of perspective showed that there is more to geometry than just the metric properties of figures. The subject of geometry was further enriched by the study of intrinsic structure of geometric objects that originated with Euler and Gauss and led to the creation of topology and differential geometry.


Since the nineteenth century discovery of non-Euclidean geometry, the concept of space has undergone a radical transformation. Contemporary geometry considers manifolds, spaces that are considerably more abstract than the familiar Euclidean space, which they only approximately resemble at small scales. These spaces may be endowed with additional structure, allowing one to speak about length. Modern geometry has multiple strong bonds with physics, exemplified by the ties between Riemannian geometry and general relativity. One of the youngest physical theories, string theory, is also very geometric in nature.

The visual nature of geometry makes it initially more accessible than other parts of mathematics, such as algebra or number theory. However, the geometric language is also used in contexts that are far removed from its traditional, Euclidean provenance, for example, in fractal geometry, and especially in algebraic geometry. It is quite common in algebraic geometry to speak about geometry of algebraic varieties over finite fields, possibly singular. From a naïve perspective, these objects are just finite sets of points, but by invoking powerful geometric imagery and using well developed geometric techniques, it is possible to find structure and establish properties that make them somewhat analogous to the ordinary spheres or cones.

History of Geometry

The earliest recorded beginnings of geometry can be traced to ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley from around 3000 BCE. Early geometry was a collection of empirically discovered principles concerning lengths, angles, areas, and volumes, which were developed to meet some practical need in surveying, construction, astronomy, and various crafts. The earliest known texts on geometry are the Egyptian Rhind Papyrus and Moscow Papyrus, the Babylonian clay tablets, and the Indian Shulba Sutras, while the Chinese had the work of Mozi, Zhang Heng, and the Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art, edited by Liu Hui.

Euclid's Elements (c. 300 BCE) was one of the most important early texts on geometry, in which he presented geometry in an ideal axiomatic form, which came to be known as Euclidean geometry. The treatise is not, as is sometimes thought, a compendium of all that Hellenistic mathematicians knew about geometry at that time; rather, it is an elementary introduction to it; Euclid himself wrote eight more advanced books on geometry. We know from other references that Euclid’s was not the first elementary geometry textbook, but the others fell into disuse and were lost.

In the Middle Ages, mathematics in medieval Islam contributed to the development of geometry, especially algebraic geometry and geometric algebra."Boyer Omar Khayyam positive roots"(ca. 1050-1123), the "tent-maker," wrote an Algebra that went beyond that of al-Khwarizmi to include equations of third degree. Like his Arab predecessors, Omar Khayyam provided for quadratic equations both arithmetic and geometric solutions; for general cubic equations, he believed (mistakenly, as the sixteenth century later showed), arithmetic solutions were impossible; hence he gave only geometric solutions. The scheme of using intersecting conics to solve cubics had been used earlier by Menaechmus, Archimedes, and Alhazan, but Omar Khayyam took the praiseworthy step of generalizing the method to cover all third-degree equations (having positive roots). .. For equations of higher degree than three, Omar Khayyam evidently did not envision similar geometric methods, for space does not contain more than three dimensions, ... One of the most fruitful contributions of Arabic eclecticism was the tendency to close the gap between numerical and geometric algebra. The decisive step in this direction came much later with Descartes, but Omar Khayyam was moving in this direction when he wrote, "Whoever thinks algebra is a trick in obtaining unknowns has thought it in vain. No attention should be paid to the fact that algebra and geometry are different in appearance. Algebras are geometric facts which are proved." Omar Khayyám (1048-1131) found geometric solutions to cubic equations, and his extensive studies of the parallel postulate contributed to the development of non-Euclidian geometry on quadrilaterals, including the Lambert quadrilateral and Saccheri quadrilateral, were the first theorems on elliptical geometry and hyperbolic geometry, and along with their alternative postulates, such as Playfair's axiom, these works had a considerable influence on the development of non-Euclidean geometry among later European geometers, including Witelo, Levi ben Gerson, Alfonso, John Wallis, and Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri. "Three scientists, Ibn al-Haytham, Khayyam and al-Tusi, had made the most considerable contribution to this branch of geometry whose importance came to be completely recognized only in the nineteenth century. In essence their propositions concerning the properties of quadrangles which they considered assuming that some of the angles of these figures were acute of obtuse, embodied the first few theorems of the hyperbolic and the elliptic geometries. Their other proposals showed that various geometric statements were equivalent to the Euclidean postulate V. It is extremely important that these scholars established the mutual connection between tthis postulate and the sum of the angles of a triangle and a quadrangle. By their works on the theory of parallel lines Arab mathematicians directly influenced the relevant investigations of their European counterparts. The first European attempt to prove the postulate on parallel lines - made by Witelo, the Polish scientists of the thirteenth century, while revising Ibn al-Haytham's Book of Optics (Kitab al-Manazir) - was undoubtedly prompted by Arabic sources. The proofs put forward in the fourteenth century by the Jewish scholar Levi ben Gerson, who lived in southern France, and by the above-mentioned Alfonso from Spain directly border on Ibn al-Haytham's demonstration. Above, we have demonstrated that Pseudo-Tusi's Exposition of Euclid had stimulated borth J. Wallis's and G. Saccheri's studies of the theory of parallel lines."

In the early 17th century, there were two important developments in geometry. The first, and most important, was the creation of analytic geometry, or geometry with coordinates and equations, by René Descartes (1596–1650) and Pierre de Fermat (1601–1665). This was a necessary precursor to the development of calculus and a precise quantitative science of physics. The second geometric development of this period was the systematic study of projective geometry by Girard Desargues (1591–1661). Projective geometry is the study of geometry without measurement, just the study of how points align with each other.

Two developments in geometry in the nineteenth century changed the way it had been studied previously. These were the discovery of non-Euclidean geometries by Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky, János Bolyai and Carl Friedrich Gauss and of the formulation of symmetry as the central consideration in the Erlangen Programme of Felix Klein (which generalized the Euclidean and non Euclidean geometries). Two of the master geometers of the time were Bernhard Riemann, working primarily with tools from mathematical analysis, and introducing the Riemann surface, and Henri Poincaré, the founder of algebraic topology and the geometric theory of dynamical systems.

As a consequence of these major changes in the conception of geometry, the concept of "space" became something rich and varied, and the natural background for theories as different as complex analysis and classical mechanics. The traditional type of geometry was recognized as that of homogeneous spaces, those spaces which have a sufficient supply of symmetry, so that from point to point they look just the same.